January 7, 2015
Khaled Hosseini calls for release of Azerbaijani writer
by Nick Davies
Khaled Hosseini, author of the bestselling The Kite Runner, has added his voice to the call for Azerbaijani writer and translator Khadija Ismayilova to be released from prison. Alison Flood reports for The Guardian that Hosseini describes the right to write freely as “sacred” in his condemnation of Azerbaijan’s government.
Ismayilova, who translated The Kite Runner into Azeri, has been lauded for her work as a journalist. She was named one of The Atlantic’s Brave Thinkers of 2012, and won the courage in journalism award from the International Women’s Media Foundation. She was arrested in Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan) last month on trumped-up charges of driving a man to suicide; just before her arrest, the chief of staff to President Ilham Aliyev issued a 60-page statement accusing her of a “destructive attitude toward well-known members of the Azerbaijani community.”
Several organizations have protested Ismayilova’s arrest. PEN America dismisses the accusations as “spurious” and “aimed to silence her unyielding efforts to expose corruption and other government abuses;” Amnesty International describes her incarceration as “another blatant attempt to gag free media in Azerbaijan;” and Reporters Without Borders has launched a petition calling for her release.
The latter estimates that there are nine journalists and at least five bloggers in custody in Azerbaijan, and condemns the president in a statement referencing the upcoming European Games: “You are doing your utmost to burnish your country’s image abroad in the run-up to the inaugural European Games in Baku in July 2015. But the world is not fooled by your efforts on the sports field, president Aliyev. Your actions will be judged in the arena of freedom of information and respect for basic rights.”
Hosseini expresses gratitude to Ismayilova for translating his book, saying that he was “honoured that Khadija was the voice that brought my story to Azerbaijan,” and asking people to “join me in calling for her immediate release and unconditional return to her important work as a journalist.”
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.